When controlling churches or cults want to silence opposition, one of their favorite ultimate weapons is “loaded” language. Usually this is in the form of words with meanings so loaded by the group that their use in a conversation or a controversy literally stops all rational thought in the hearers, and usually even in the spectators.
One of my personal “favorites” in this category is actually pretty widespread in the Christian world. I call it the “B word.” It is usually used in situations when a person or persons in a church or organization become frustrated at being controlled or manipulated by the powers that be. The moment that person or persons expresses that frustration in an angry tone combined with a refusal to let the matter drop, this particular bomb is dropped to end the confrontation.
All it takes is for the leader or one of the leader’s followers to make the remark, “_________ must be bitter,” for the crisis to resolve in favor of the powers that be. All participants automatically dismiss every word or observation of the accused, no matter how relevent or accurate.
It is automatic. The brains of the followers have been programmed to refuse input from the complainant. The cache is emptied. That person’s viewpoint no longer computes or matters. Game over.
The phenomenon is well described in this post dated March 10 2010. I do not know the Free Believers organization well enough to comment on anything else on their website, but the linked post about bitterness is very helpful.
A favorite proof-text for discrediting anyone who is deemed to be bitter is Hebrews 12:16, which states, ” See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many.” (NIV) That is pretty scary-sounding stuff. You could lose your salvation if you listen to the bitter person, right?
Looking at the context in Hebrews 12:14-17 throws a whole different light on what Paul is saying about the causes and concerns regarding bitterness.
Read carefully and you will see that Paul is concerned about how Christians are treating each other and whether that treatment will lead to some losing their place in the ranks of the saved due to bitterness over how other Christians have treated them. He is warning the community that they must treat each other well in order not to turn one another off of Jesus Christ because of hypocrisy.
Another favorite proof-text, Ephesians 4:31 is found in the midst of similar concerns in Ephesians 4:25-32. These concerns are echoed by Jesus himself in Matthew 18:1-9. We usually can’t get past the idea of cutting off limbs or casting out eyes to see that the point Jesus is making. Don’t turn off believers of Jesus Christ by your words and actions. Do not be somebody else’s stumbling block.
The parts of the body that need to be cast out are the ones causing the offense, not their victims. The embittered ones should not have been made bitter in the first place. That is the entire point of all three passages. When churches manipulate their members, it is usually the leaders who are causing the disillusionment, yet they blame their victims by calling them bitter. Jesus is not pleased when people plant a root of bitterness in others by mistreating them. The perpetrators had better get ready to wear a millstone necklace (the New Testament equivalent of cement overshoes) when Jesus returns.
This message was originally delivered August 14, 2010 in Wascana Fellowship.